Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hard Answers

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

                        Jeremiah 32.27

Unlimited Power

When we lift this question off the page to stand alone, the answer is a no-brainer. Nothing is too hard for God. Living by faith starts here. As a matter of fact, the whole of Christendom hinges on a maiden’s belief that God can do anything. After hearing she would deliver the world’s Savior, Mary naturally had a few questions, which the angel settled straightaway with one sweeping statement: “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Had she doubted this, it’s unlikely she would have met the challenge bestowed on her. Mary’s faith in a God of the impossible (or is it a God of the entirely possible?) lives on in the teaching of her Son, Who in Matthew 17.20 tells us if we can muster a tiny seed’s worth of faith, “nothing will be impossible for you.” So Jeremiah 32.27 aligns with other declarations of God’s unlimited power. Now let’s replace the question in its original context to see why He asked it and what we should draw from it. Things get very interesting very quickly and very possibly raise more questions instead of inviting an easy answer. For example, we may feel tempted to wonder why serving an omnipotent God is so marvelous after all.

Sealing the Deal Sets the Stage

God poses His question in a conversation Jeremiah recounts to the king of Judah, who’s arrested the prophet to silence his prediction that Judah will soon fall to the Babylonian army encamped outside Jerusalem. Jeremiah says God instructed him to purchase a field, seal the deal with a witnessed transaction, and store two copies of the deed—one sealed, another unsealed—in a clay jar to outlast the imminent siege. After the Babylonians leave, He promises “houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” Jeremiah knows God is speaking and does as he’s told. Yet being an inveterate pessimist clouds his thinking in a peculiar way. He has no problem with God standing down so Babylon can invade Jerusalem. Clearly in his mind Israel has brought this attack on itself by neglecting God’s ways. He just can’t figure out God’s plans for complete restoration after a season of despair. In other words, Jeremiah’s cool with Act I; it’s the second act that perplexes him.

“I’m the God of all humanity,” God replies. “Is anything too hard for Me?” He details His plan for Israel step by step, explaining His authority extends beyond Israel to command unwitting obedience from all nations, including pagan powers like Babylon, to bring His people back to Him. His objective isn’t punishment; it’s correction seeded in His desire to heal His broken relationship with Israel by proving His faithfulness once again. And He directs Jeremiah to buy property in a plummeting market to teach a priceless lesson the prophet—the first of the red-hot fire-and-brimstone preachers—truly needs. Sealing the deal sets the stage for Jeremiah to experience Act II up close and personal.

History’s Whirlpool

By the time God’s scenario plays out, Jeremiah will know to look beyond judgment and see mercy. He’ll stop railing against causes and start rejoicing in cures. He’ll suffer national disasters yet gain individual development. Particularly in these times of global uncertainty, we should pay special attention to Jeremiah. He’s stayed true to his Maker all along. His concern for his fellow citizens runs so deep he’s not ashamed to confront their self-indulgence and non-compliance to God’s will. He probably deserves to be spared history’s whirlpool. He isn’t. He faces the same indignities and deprivation of the unrighteous. But while they panic and offload assets to offset losses, Jeremiah holds on to a promise tucked inside a clay jar. It’s worth little in the current economy. The day will come, however, when it brings much profit. Then Jeremiah will see the power of redemption and end his love affair with retribution.

Every day more of us are getting sucked into history’s whirlpool. There’s no good reason why—we’ve done nothing wrong. We’re caught in the currents of God’s plan and forced to swim alongside those whose greed and corruption troubled the waters. Rather than succumb to the downward drag, we must hold on, clinging tenaciously to promises tucked inside our jars of clay. Before all this started, we obeyed God’s voice. We bought real estate in His Word. We invited others to witness the transaction and we sealed the deal. While He proves His Lordship over all humanity for the nth time, He asks, “Is anything too hard for Me?” The question begs hard answers, yet knowing what’s inside us eases our minds. It may seem worth little now, but faith within always survives trouble without. While everything else plunges in value, it increases in hope of a day when trust in our all-powerful God will be redeemed for all its worth.

In the face of certain hardship, God instructs us to buy the field, seal the deal, and tuck the deed away in our jars of clay. The day will come when He redeems our faith for all its worth.

(Tomorrow: Poolside)


kkryno said...

I guess that means Faith means buying "All in." I do that in my heart; but sometimes, my head gets in the way.

Silly human!

Tim said...

Yep, Vikki, it's an all-or-nothing proposition--and our heads keep getting in the way, because a lot of time faith doesn't make sense in the moment. It's really hard to get logic to take a seat so faith can stand. We're all silly humans when it comes that!

Thanks for chiming in--you always make me smile!